Skip to Content

The Editor's View March 2004


The March column from the former editor of Writers' Forum

John JenkinsAs a publisher and editor I have been answering queries from writers for something like 20 years and as a result I have recently published a book FAQs and the Answers for Ambitious Writers.


Free offer (UK only)

Philosophy according to Ricky Gervais:

The pigeon and the statue. . .

why shood Gilian Cros spel like this?

AS DAVID BRENT famously announced to his office staff - one day you're the pigeon, the next day you're the statue. For the moment Ricky Gervais is the pigeon.

The Office has become cult viewing, gathering more viewers during its repeat run than it did at first showing. And the video and DVD outsold everything else on the shelves. Not surprising really for it has one of the best comedy scripts since Yes, Minister and Fawlty Towers. It's difficult to see where Gervais ends and Brent begins for he slips seamlessly into character as viewers saw when he was the surprise -even shock - choice for the Golden Globe Awards.

Unlike most of the recipients –admittedly American - he forgot to thank his Mom, his agent, his cleaning lady, the man who does his tax and his agent. In fact he had to be reminded by Gareth to thank the Foreign Press in Hollywood who had fuelled his Hollywood award.

"As you can guess," he said. "I don't come from around these parts. I come from a little place called England. We used to run the world before you did." The American audience fell about.

His surprise at winning the award was genuine although he is no stranger to picking up prizes. During the past 12 months he has been lauded by The Royal Television Society, British Comedy Awards and a silver rose at Montreux .

Ricky has the near perfect CV for a paperback blurb. From traffic warden to failed pop star; head of speech at radio Xfm and entertainment's officer for London University. He had read philosophy at University College. He broke into Channel 4 with a late-night chat show but his contract was not renewed.

In fact his etymological radio discourse on the meaning of the word cock was deemed "coarse sexual innuendo and unsuitable for broadcasting." His co-writer and friend Stephen Merchant had made a ten-minute film called the Seedy Boss and that was the idea which eventually became the Wernham Hogg paper supplier's office in Slough.

Poor Slough, which has never really recovered from John Betjeman:

‘Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough

It isn't fit for humans now’

is now the spiritual home of the boss from hell. "There's good news and bad news. The good news is that I have been promoted. The bad news is that you are going to be made redundant."

Gervais has his roots nearby. He grew up in Reading, the son of a French-Canadian labourer who came to England during World War II. Ricky was the youngest of four children and has never lost touch with his roots.

He spends Christmas in Reading with his family and speaks fondly of the area and its people.

It has taken him time to find fame and at the age of 42 he is unlikely to be seduced by sycophants. He is equally unlikely to be seduced by money, having turned down TV commercials and invitations to take part in Hollywood blockbusters, including Pirates of the Caribbean.

He is fundamentally a writer rather than a performer. He has refused a third series of The Office although penning a Christmas special.

Readers of Writers' ForumBritish writers' magazine which is highly recommended for all writers. It features wide range of news and articles which help writers to improve their work and get published: will be interested to know that the next venture for this talented writer is a children's book, written before the Golden Globe triumphs and placed with Faber. It is called Flanimals and Faber can be forgiven for whooping with delight at the stunning publicity for their latest author.

You can almost hear the print order clicking up from four figures to six.

An overnight success? Not really.

Ricky has been trying to get his book published for six years.

"But nobody answered the door until I knocked on it with four Baftas," he said. That's life, Ricky. You spend a long time as the statue.

* * *

GILLIAN CROSS is a marvellous writer for children, rightly applauded as inventive and exciting. But has she gone a kilometre too far with her latest offering - Down with the Dirty Danes? I talk not from a politically correct perspective but from spelling.

Target audience is 8+ and Danes is tied in with the National Curriculum.

Should Gillian further confuse eight-year-olds with the kind of spelling which makes parents and teachers tear their hair? Becoz - cosen, showt, argew, of corse. I should fink not!

* * *

WE ALL make mistakes but when it comes to spelling, facts and punctuation Writers' Forum should make fewer than most. There's no point in feeling smug about spotting that Nick Horny should be Hornby, that Diamond Skulls should be Diamond Sculls and that Richard Shape should be Sharpe. No point at all - if you miss-spell the name of one of the world's great writers. I'm talking about J M Coetzee, described in my column last month as Koetzee. I'm sorry. Do try him if you have not read him so far. A genuine talent.

John Jenkins, Publisher, Writers' Forum



Read the article about setting up WritersServices which was originally published in Writers' Forum magazine.

© Writers International Ltd 2003. Reproduced from the December-Januray edition of Writers' Forum magazine by kind permission of the editor.